Sheffield Park Garden and a crazy tree purchase.

Hastings Battleaxe has never been to Sheffield Park Garden, all the years we have lived down here. We visited recently with our old friend Alison. It is a really beautiful place, with picturesque lakes, and, lucky for us, at this time of year, a wonderful display of rhododendrons and azaleas. We didn’t know what to expect before we got there, and were pleased and surprised.

When I’ve posted this, my recent adventures will be a bit more up-to-date. The drive over to Sheffield Park was a a bit hairy. Turns out Google Maps is over-fond of showing us scenic mid-Sussex, places, and loves to fetch up exciting routes along single track roads. It is the same as when Battleaxe used to go to Ardingly a lot – I swear Google Maps came up with a different route every time we went, each one worse than the last. This time, the identified route was incredibly complicated, bendy, convoluted and full of pot-holes, and we also had to travel for miles behind a tractor. By the time we got there I felt sick and our nerves were in shreds. We could do nothing but visit the – very attractive – Coach House Tearoom to consume massive National Trust scones. Battleaxe has realised that for me, stress equals consumption of carbs… Our friend Alison, who also had a slightly hairy drive from Horsham, also courtesy of her sat-nav, joined us in the carb-eating fest.

Philsopher and Alison

But despite the weather not being good – it was dryish, but misty drizzly much of the time – the garden turned out to be lovely. Here are some more photos.

Sheffield Park has the National Collection of rare Ghent Azaleas – a deciduous version very popular in the late nineteenth century, but which almost died out. They have beautiful, delicate flowers. Alison, who is a far more knowledgable plantsperson than us – she volunteers at Nymans – was particularly pleased to see them.

Sheffield Park also has some absolutely massive old trees – great big oaks, chestnuts and truly huge redwoods. Battleaxe loves trees. Look, I could never be a tree-hugger or even a forest bather, but I love their sheer size, solidity and capacity to survive.

Sadly, we saw the remains of this 140 year old redwood – and one of the largest, which was struck by lightning in Storm Eunice in 2022. Here is an article about it and a pic off the internet.

When we went to the plant nursery after touring the gardens, they had a collection of baby redwoods, so, in a moment of madness, I bought one. It’s a Dawn Redwood. Turns out I may regret it. They are apparently one of the fastest growing trees on earth, and in 100 years can grow to at least 160 feet in height, with a trunk diameter of 7 feet.  Wait for this – in just twenty years it can be 50 feet high with a trunk diameter of 8 inches. So – it grows 2 -3 feet per year. The tree, Metaseqoia Glyptostroboides, is the sole survivor of its family, and is said to be critically endangered… It feels like quite a responsibility. I feel I have to keep it alive and let it grow for the future.

At the moment it is a cute baby tree – but for how long?  We put it in the car boot while we had our lunch, and fantasised that by the time we returned to the car, it would have burst out of the roof!

Here it is now… just over a foot high. You can see the black mark I put on the cane, just a few days ago, and already it is above it…

And here is a pic from the internet, showing what it will become… sorry people, I don’t know who you are, but thanks anyway!



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